As the women’s hockey teams head to the quarterfinals, the men are just kicking off the group stage of their tournament at the 2022 Winter Olympics, and the first prelim featured one of the favorites to compete for gold at the Games — the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). The Russian athletes also took the gold in PyeongChang, then competing under the name Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR).
With numerous former NHLers on the roster — most notably Nikita Gusev, Nikita Nesterov and Vyacheslav “Slava” Voynov — many expected the ROC to take down the Swiss handily. But the game turned out to be a close one from start to finish with the ROC squeaking out a 1-0 shutout victory.
The only goal of the night came from former Edmonton Oilers winger Anton Slepyshev, and his tally was a pretty weird one. With just 2.7 seconds remaining in the opening period, Slepyshev blindly backhanded a puck toward the Switzerland goal, and Swiss forward Enzo Corvi inadvertently kicked the shot into his own team’s net.
Ironically, both teams did a solid job of generating quality scoring chances throughout the game. They just couldn’t get any of them past the goal line — or the post.
ROC netminder and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Ivan Fedotov was making his Olympic debut in the contest and earned a 33-save shutout, but Switzerland’s goaltender wasn’t bad either. Reto Berra, who spent parts of five seasons playing in the NHL from 2013 to 2018, finished the night with 29 saves, including four on Gusev, who singlehandedly created several high-danger scoring chances throughout the tilt.
“It felt good to get a W today. We worked really hard today,” said ROC forward Mikhail Grigorenko after the game.
“We haven’t played for a month, so we were a bit rusty. But we got the result.”
If the remaining games in the men’s tournament are anywhere near as exciting as this one was, it’ll be quite an exhilarating ride for hockey fans tuning in around the globe.
The ROC men’s next game comes late Thursday night at 11:10 p.m. ET against Denmark. The Swiss will next play early Friday morning at 3:40 a.m. ET against the Czechs.